Rosen Questions Commerce Department Nominee on Travel and Tourism Recovery Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Grant Harris, Nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis at the Department of Commerce, about his plan to help the travel and tourism industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. If confirmed, Harris would lead the unit of Commerce’s International Trade Administration that includes the National Travel and Tourism Office, the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, and Brand USA, a public-private marketing effort to promote the U.S. as a premier travel destination. A transcript of the Senator’s exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found aquí.

ROSEN: Thank you, Chairwoman Cantwell and Ranking Member Wicker, for holding this hearing and to all of the nominees here today for your willingness to serve. We really appreciate you.

Mr. Harris, as we discussed earlier when we met this week, Nevada’s economy, like so many other states, of course, relies heavily on travel and tourism. In 2019, Las Vegas’s Harry Reid International Airport saw over 50 million passengers, generated nearly $35 billion in economic output, supported approximately 250,000 jobs, and was responsible for about 18 percent of the area’s gross domestic product. 

So, if confirmed as Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, you would be responsible for overseeing the National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO), [which] works to enhance the international competitiveness of the U.S. travel and tourism industry and increase our exports, thereby creating U.S. employment and economic growth, as Senator Klobuchar was stating from her state right on the Canadian border. 

So, amidst a global pandemic that has decimated the travel, tourism, leisure, and hospitality, this office, the work that it does is more important than ever.

So, as Chair of this committee’s Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion – which has jurisdiction over NTTO – I’d like to ask how, if confirmed, you plan to help our travel and tourism industry recover and continue to grow through these challenging times. 

HARRIS: Thank you, Senator, for the question, and I appreciated the ability to have a conversation about that ahead of this, as well. And I appreciate the hearings that you’ve held as Chair of the subcommittee, in particular. And I’ve heard you speak impassioned about this issue, noting as well that hospitality is 25 percent of the GDP of your state. 

But, as you’re speaking on a national level too, I understand fully how important this is to so many communities and so many businesses, as well as to U.S. exports—it comprises 9 percent of U.S. exports, at least according to 2019 numbers. So this is an industry that is in need of support. We need to help rebuild. We need to help grow. 

And if I were honored to be confirmed, I would be working with the industry, including through the travel and tourism advisory board, and ensuring that their recommendations and advice are going to the Secretary and supporting the Secretary’s ongoing efforts in this regard. 

I’d be working with you in Congress, and I’d be working also, of course, internally within the Executive Branch supporting the Secretary’s role in Tourism Policy Council and setting policies that can support this sector and help grow jobs and rebuild. 

ROSEN: Thank you. I look forward to doing that with you because tourism is vital to every single state in our nation and, of course, globally. 

BACKGROUND: Senator Rosen is Chair of the Commerce Turismo, Comercio y Promoción de Exportaciones (Presidente).